The sound of a whistling tea kettle is the music of my young adult life. Tasked at a young age with making the perfect cup for my English mother, I appreciate the simplicity of an Earl Grey, the comfort of a Lipton, and the exoticness of a flowery blend from India.
I jump at the chance to celebrate any special occasion at Lady Mendl’s, a delightful tea parlour in my neighborhood. With spring finally in bloom and all of us still feeling festive over our recent engagement, Paul and I decided to treat my grandmother to this special experience last weekend.
Lady Mendl’s is an unmarked gem on Irving Place, my favorite street in New York, located in a beautiful brownstone inn that I’ve passed for months coming to and from my Union Square apartment and never noticed.
We stepped into the foyer and were immediately enticed by a amazing oaky aroma, a scent that now fills my own apartment thanks to the Trapp Fragrances candles on sale in the foyer. We were ushered into the dainty parlour where we waited for our seating and were then led to our table. It felt like we had reverted back in time as we settled into our Victorian-era living room. Eclectic, beautiful china plates and teacups decorated our floral table, with mismatched patterned chairs and ornate silver pieces. I couldn’t stop photographing the room.
We selected the five course tea for $40 per person, which was accompanied by an extensive choice of freshly-steeped teas. Wait staff was attentive and personable, continuously checking on our tea, milk and sugar. Service was a true standout. There were no menus, so we were pleasantly surprised by the first course or amuse bouche, which was a delicious butternut squash soup with pumpkin seeds.
What followed next was my favorite part of the meal. I don’t know what I love more: an unlimited assortment of finger sandwiches or an embarrassing amount of clotted cream to top a few warm, freshly-baked scones. We started with the scone, which was huge and a perfect crispy yet doughy consistency. The clotted cream was like whipped cream for breakfast and the three jam options pleased all of our different palettes.
The third course was tea sandwiches and I happily sampled multiple cucumber with mint creme fraiche sandwiches on brioche. Other standouts in sandwiches included the butternut squash with Borzon cheese and Balsamic glaze and the roast beef with horse radish. Paul loved the smoked salmon best. There wasn’t a weak link in the group.
You would think after small finger sandwiches and scones one might be ravenous (a menu like this would normally be my fiance’s worst nightmare), but by the time the dessert course came around we were all extremely full. We were served Lady Mendl’s signature cake next, a twenty-layered crepe cake filled with French pastry cream which was actually amazingly light despite its complexity.
If that wasn’t enough, delicious tea cookies and chocolate covered strawberries were served on course five. We were so full that we had to ask for a doggy bag, which is a rarity. My grandmother was thrilled to be bringing a temporary extension of the tea back home with her.
The inviting atmosphere kept us there for hours. The service never wavered and made us feel like we were truly celebrating something special and, most importantly, made my grandmother feel spoiled, which solidified my stellar review.
The Bitches say: Five Champagne flutes. A quality afternoon tea with memorable service and a desirable atmosphere that is perfect for a special occasion with loved ones.
Lady Mendl’s serves afternoon tea Monday-Friday, 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. seating, and Saturday-Sunday, 12 p.m., 2:30 p.m. or 5 p.m. seating